• 5 Marketing Methods to Help You Succeed In 2019

    It’s a given that the world of marketing moves fast. Every year brings new marketing methods to engage your buyers. 2019 is no exception. Adapting to the new ground rules each year can be dizzying.

    If you skim the search results for marketing trends in 2019 you’ll see that AI, virtual reality and chatbots are still all the rage. For three years (or more) we’ve heard about the benefits of these new technologies. We don’t deny the power of these new systems, but for most companies these are still inexplicable buzzwords that really don’t make sense for their business.

    Rather than promote bleeding edge programs that verge on science fiction, we present 5 marketing methods to help you succeed in 2019.

    Search Is Still Critical

    As we all know, every purchase starts with a need or a desire.

    Sometimes the urge to buy comes from an organic place: the buyer experiences a real world situation that compels them to find a solution for their needs.

    Other times, the demand for a product or service is generated through the artful use of advertising, which introduces the buyer to something they never knew existed.

    In both cases, the buyer starts the process with online research. That inevitably means they rely on a search engine to find information.

    There is nothing new about search. What’s new in 2019 is where people go to do it.

    It’s not enough to simply write blogs and optimize your site for search engine success. People now use Facebook and Twitter to explore new products. They browse through dozens of images on Pinterest and Instagram. They watch videos on YouTube. They even use voice search (“Hey Siri!”) or visual search to find more information about something they’re looking at directly in front of them.

    Is your company poised to capitalize when your buyer is in the mood to explore? The answer is probably no unless you’re engaging in a sophisticated SEO campaign and regularly pushing content across a wide array of platforms. Even so, many business fail to rank where it matters most.

    Our advice is to quit discounting the most fundamental behavior of buyer psychology. SEO, SEM, social media, and content marketing matter more now than ever before. Invest heavily in a multidimensional strategy that leads buyers to you.

    Expect Fragmentation

    For the last 5 years we witnessed a massive consolidation online. Facebook essentially demolished most of the early competitors in the social media world. Google not only dominated the search engine industry, they also lead the way with online video (YouTube) and digital advertising (formerly AdWords, now Google Ads). Amazon continues to break records for online shopping and now competes for music, entertainment and just about everything else.

    But something predictable happened in 2018. People changed how they consume online media. Thanks to the bitter presidential election in 2016, and as a result of privacy violations across the internet, more and more consumers are diversifying where they spend their time online.

    2019 will bring about more fragmentation in online behavior. People are doing more research on sites that cater to their niche interests. They’re opting in to email lists from companies they trust – while flagging as spam those companies they don’t. They consume considerable amounts of video online all over the internet. They read forums (remember those?) and participate on discussion sites like Reddit. Blogs, podcasts, alternative news sites, the list goes on and on. More profoundly, they’re spending less time on Facebook and Twitter, instead opting for Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Mastodon, Minds, Gab, MeWe, Vero, Signal and more.

    This isn’t to suggest that the Big Three (Facebook, Twitter, and Google) are going anywhere soon. But as personal data becomes a bigger issue for consumers, people will move towards platforms where they can engage with more like-minded users and ensure a modicum of privacy.

    What does that mean for you? Know your audience. Research where they spend their time online and develop a strategy for engaging them all along the way.

    Personalize Your Approach

    You should never send a single email to an entire database of customers. Similarly, you can’t expect a single ad to resonate with all of your buyers. If you speak to all of your customers in the same way you should expect to lose them over time. Buyers are unique. You need to treat them like it.

    Market segmentation is nothing new. Even list segmentation is old news. But are you actually using all of the available tools to speak directly to each individual buyer? Are you appealing to them as individuals and offering them messaging based on their behavior online?

    Remarketing methods, email marketing metrics, Facebook pixel, website behavior tracking… these are but a few of the tools that allow you to analyze the interests and preferences of your buyers. With a CRM and marketing automation platform, you can generate workflows to deliver personalized messages that leads your buyer through the funnel.

    Let’s take this even further for 2019. If you are not developing engaging, original content tailored to the personal preferences of your buyers, you will be missing out on the opportunity to turn customers into brand loyalists. Certainly, buyers buy products because they need them, but brand loyalists buy products because they want them… and they won’t even consider buying from another company. That competitive edge makes your life easier and increases sales.

    Original Engaging Content Means More Than Just A Blog

    Research suggests that the average person is exposed to over 10,000 marketing messages EVERY DAY. Is yours breaking through? We bet the answer is no.

    Everyday people scroll through their social media feed in a somewhat absent minded manner until something stands out. They’re busy. They want to be informed or entertained. They want to be amazed.

    How do you stop the scroll? Make your content awesome!

    If you haven’t taken content marketing seriously up to now, in 2019 you must invest in a strategy that captivates and intrigues your customers. We advise you to think beyond the blog.

    The most engaging forms of content are professional quality photography and video. People by nature are visually oriented. They stop and stare when something captures their attention. This is why billboards are still effective to this day, thousands of years after the first sign was hung for a business. It’s why TV still ranks as the most dominant media form. It’s why YouTube garners billions of users each month.

    We’ll take this even further. If you’re producing brand-related video and photos with a mobile phone it’s highly likely that you’re doing it wrong. Today’s consumers are smarter than that, and they have incredibly high standards for what passes as quality. A poorly lit photo or a sloppily produced video tarnishes your brand. If your product looks less than stellar how does that impact your buyer? It turns them off.

    Diversify Your Ad Strategy

    Earlier on we mentioned fragmentation in media consumption. It’s not that people are no longer using Facebook, Twitter, Google, et al. They’re just not spending as much time there. Much ado has been made about the limited organic reach you get these days on these platforms.

    The cost to reach a greater audience has skyrocketed. It’s a sign of bad times when up to a half of a company’s ad budget goes solely to one company. It’s even more frustrating when these vendors put excessive restrictions on not only WHAT you can advertise but HOW your ad must look.

    The rise in niche sites, independent social platforms, and even new search engines (hello Pinterest!) means there are many more places online to advertise your products. It’s time to explore your options. We’re here to tell you there is life outside of Google and Facebook.

    There are multiple private ad networks that reach industry-specific audiences and capture buyers of niche products. There are influencers and affiliates who can drive sales with a single tweet or shout out in a podcast. And let’s not forget the tried and true standards of the analog ad industry: billboards, radio, TV, magazines, direct mail, and special event sponsorships. All of these methods give you a powerful alternative for reaching your customers.

    Your Brand Still Matters

    At the end of the day you still need a brand. It doesn’t even need to be hip or cute – like so many startups that flood the market. With a strong sense of identity and a good understanding of your buyers, you can use the methods in this blog to reach even more buyers than you did in 2018. While it’s easy to get distracted by shiny new objects like AR/VR and AI, the fundamentals of marketing remain the same.

    What’s changed is the critical requirement to build a diverse strategy. You can’t win the game if you don’t show up to play. Buyers in 2019 will no longer give you a pass for a half-hearted attempt to win their attention. Your New Year resolution should be “Excellence in Marketing”. If you pursue it with intention, you’ll crush your sales goals and succeed while others crash and burn.

    Let Divining Point tackle your marketing strategy, implementation and management. For more information, visit our services page today!

     

  • Why Service Companies Need to Invest in Branding

    Branding is more than just big words and fancy logos. It’s an investment in your company’s future. It is the first step in reassuring your customers that you will fulfill the promises you make. Your brand tells a story and defines how your clients will experience your company. That begins with the very first impression they form when seeing your logo and hearing your name, and it continues with every interaction they have with your company.

    Some people think branding is hokey. We get it. Many people underestimate the value of a reputable, authentic brand until they have one for themselves.  Your brand is your most valuable asset and remains constant as your company changes – team members come and go, clients come and go, you expand your service line, etc. As such, it is the foundation of your company.

    The only constant is change…and your brand.

    The best brands understand they can’t be everything to everybody. They define exactly what they’re offering and exactly who it will benefit. With such clarity, their messaging is laser-focused on their target market and they position themselves as leaders. A strong brand is not only authoritative, but also authentic, and this combo draws customers in to learn more. Even though your business may revolve around “handshakes” and relationships, your brand is the glue that makes your customers stick with you.

    To establish their authenticity, a brand must separate themselves from the competition by highlighting their “why.” In a market where competitors fight on price, poach talent or build knockoff products, a unique brand is a differentiator that keeps existing clients engaged and attracts future customers.

    Your brand tells a story.

    Here’s an example of engineering companies telling different stories with their brands:

    With Austin’s hot market, local architects and developers are teaming up with engineering firms to knock out projects fast. Let’s say an architect is designing a hotel and needs an engineering firm to help with the parking lot. He runs a Google search and clicks on a few of the organic search results. The first clicked link leads to the site for ABC Engineers.

    ABC: The ABC logo is a blocky, black-and-white, “ABC.” Their website isn’t that interesting either, with just one generic picture of a blueprint and an uninspiring promise of, “we provide innovative solutions for your projects.” The About Us page isn’t much better:

    ABC was founded in 2001 on the premise of providing excellent engineering and communication with our clients. We are a family-owned business and treat our clients like family. At ABC, we’re engineering the future.

    There’s no info on the types of projects ABC does, or where they practice. The architect isn’t wowed by ABC Engineers, so he clicks on another link for a company called Zeus Engineering.

    Zeus: The Zeus homepage loads a 3D-cartoon Greek-styled city rising up through shrouds of graphic clouds. An animated lightning flash strikes their logo onto the page and it’s a mythological Greek god wearing a hardhat and raising his fists with a lightning bolt in one palm and a ruler in the other. The architect visiting the site chuckles because the site is creative and original, unlike ABC Engineers.

    The architect clicks on a page called, “The Legend of Zeus,” and finds their brand promise and firm story: “We summon our Texas engineering powers to provide a hotel project quote within 3 days, phone call updates every 2 days and check-in emails EVERY day.”

    The architect reads on to find their story:

    In 2001, two young engineers by the names of Andy and Paul were working late at an ancient Austin engineering firm. Tired and hungry, Andy exclaimed, “Enough! We’ve been here for 10 hours today and we’re still behind. Clients keep calling and no one is happy. I want to build an engineering firm based on pro-active client communication – I’ll call them before they call me. Let’s use customer service to overthrow our competitors because we both know that communication is next to godliness.” And that was how Zeus Engineering was founded. Two nascent engineers determined to rewrite the process for client experience.

    Game over. The architect poked around on the Zeus site some more, reading client testimonials and watching aerial videos of their projects, but he was already sold. Their brand was confident and measurable. The focused messaging and unique website design demonstrated the signs of a company who works hard to get it right. Zeus is accountable and yet personable. A branding story well told.

    How you can learn from Zeus Engineering

    Your brand doesn’t have to be cute to get the job done. But it does need to speak clearly to the prospects you seek to convert into paying clients. To nail down your brand strategy, think about the following things.  

    People don’t buy things, they buy brands. A strong brand commands premium prices. Think about Harley Davidson and their household name. The company is, perhaps, the most well-known motorcycle manufacturer in the world, and that’s come from years of marketing that positions them as an industry leader for their consumer. They have a recognizable name that lets you know what to expect shelling out top dollar for one of their luxury motorcycles. The Harley Davidson name is more than just a product. It is a culture. It is an icon.

    Your story is built into your brand identity. Building your story into your brand is all about producing a cohesive message and identity that speaks volumes about your company. Colors, taglines, and typefaces evoke different feelings and contribute to how customers experience your brand before, during, and after the sale. As such, your brand lowers the hurdles to closing a sale. It keeps your clients bound to you, thereby making future sales easier. It positions you as the best in the industry – or the cheapest, or the oldest, or the most experienced, etc. Whatever your unique value, your brand will convey that message so you don’t have to do it yourself.

    Branding minimizes chaotic messaging, thus saving time and money on marketing. A defined brand will lead to marketing campaigns that are relevant to your customers. Instead of trying a mixed-bag approach until something sticks, your brand strategy ensures that all messaging reinforces your unique value proposition, and prevents any contradictory efforts. An example of a company with a strong brand focus is Whole Foods. They’ve narrowed down their target market to focus on customers who care about health, want to buy quality food and don’t mind spending a little more on groceries. Their messaging speaks to this audience and strengthens a brand promise of quality, not necessarily affordability. Whole Foods also uses social media and email marketing, because they know that their audience is more likely to research online, versus reading newspapers or clipping paper coupons.

    Brand strategy is an investment that should not be taken lightly or with a haphazard approach. Your brand is your first chance to tell your story and make an impression on future customers. Do it well and you’ll establish your firm as an industry leader. We’ve helped services companies, tech companies and more, and we’ve learned that the most profitable companies, no matter their size, have a single thing in common – a strong brand.

     

     

     

     

  • Picking The Perfect Brand Name

    You may remember in May and June we wrote about the 6 Steps To An Effective Brand and Simple Tips For Brand Messaging. In those posts we covered the topics that most people identify as “branding” or brand identity and messaging. That leaves us with one more topic: brand name.

    A couple of common questions arise when naming a brand:

    How does a new company choose a name that will resonate with buyers and give them a leg up over their competition?

    How does a company solve the problem of a company name that hinders their success? 

    Let’s start with the obvious: Naming isn’t easy, nor should it be taken lightly.

    Your company’s name is the first impression your brand makes on a buyer. Failure to select the right name can alienate your clients and limit your company’s opportunities. Even worse, the wrong name could result in legal headaches. As such, the naming process should be a serious endeavor that involves discovery and a significant amount of research.

    Here are some critical things to consider when naming (or renaming) your company or product.

    The Why, What, How, Who and When?

    As with everything in the branding of your company, start with the 5 most important questions:

    Why do you do what you do?

    How do you do it?

    What do you do?

    For Whom do you do it?

    When do you do it?

    The purpose of this questioning is to identify keywords or phrases that define the values and unique benefits your company or product offers to the client. Think of the obvious and less obvious words that characterize your company. We recommend using a Thesaurus for this exercise.

    Make a list of all the keywords that are associated with your business and select those that appeal to you most. These keywords are the initial “seeds” to begin the naming process.

    Know Your Audience

    In the above line of questioning, the “who” is incredibly important.

    Your company must speak the buyer’s language. Similarly, your company’s name should immediately resonate with potential clients and begin the process of differentiation even before you’ve made the first sales pitch.

    Filter your list of names by determining what works and won’t work in the industry or market your company exists. Afterwards, look at the competitive landscape and continue to narrow your list of choices.

    For B2B companies, names seem to mean less on the surface. Ordinarily, the values of price, service, and past performance help to establish a company within any industry. However, in an “apples to apples” comparison between two companies with the same strengths, the one with the stronger name and fully developed brand is in a better position to win. [nbsp_tc]Likewise, the company with the weaker brand is destined to fail. Psychologically, the brand makes a meaningful impact on the buyer. It further legitimizes your company and supports your value proposition.

    For B2C companies, naming is a critical part of the marketing process that allows a product or service to distinguish itself. An obvious example is Coke versus a generic cola. In some parts of the U.S., the word “coke” is so familiar it has replaced the words “soda” or “pop” as an all-encompassing term for any kind of carbonated soft drink. Clearly, the name matters.

    Trademarking Your Name

    A trademark is a unique word, symbol, name, or logo used to differentiate a seller or business from another. You can conduct a search on the US Patent And Trademark Office database to determine if the names you’re considering will infringe on the rights of another company. Finding a name that can be trademarked is an essential component to creating a business that is truly unique.

    This can be a fairly difficult part of the process, especially if your new name appears to be trademarked by other companies who are in the same business as you. If your name is too similar to a competitor’s and could cause confusion in the minds of a consumer, choose another name. There’s no point is using a name that cannot be trademarked or potentially infringes on the rights of another company.

    Once you’ve made a final selection for your name, you should return to this part of the process and follow through with registering your company name.

    Is A .Com Really Necessary?

    Perhaps one of the more contentious parts of the naming process is determining which website extension to secure. There are a couple schools of thought on this matter. In full transparency, we even debate the issue ourselves here at Divining Point.

    One argument suggests that a “.com” URL extension is absolutely critical. It is the most familiar website extension that the vast majority of people naturally enter into their browser. .com is the obvious choice for most people when they attempt to directly visit your site. In this line of thinking, using anything other than “.com” will be confusing to the public and could result in lost opportunities. Even though “squatters” have taken most of the good URLs, it’s a small price to pay a couple thousand dollars in order to get these people to release the “.com”.

    On the other side of this argument is the belief that your brand name is far more important than the URL extension you use. Your brand also lives in the “real world” offline, therefore, the brand has to exist independent of what happens with your website. Additionally, more people are familiar with the other available URL extensions. Sites with “.net”, “.us”, “.org”, etc, are far more prevalent today. Since most traffic occurs either through an organic search of your company or via a direct or referral method, you can develop a strategy to bypass the “.com”.

    Google rewards companies that build strong authoritative brands. Typically, this involves a site with a .com extension. However, the Google algorithm is constantly changing to meet the demands of the fast-paced cyber world. There are startups and brands who’ve experienced great success using different domains like “.io” and “.co”.

    Test The Names

    Once you’ve narrowed the field of potential names you’ll want to run some simple experiments. Test the name against a handful of other names. Present them to your colleagues. Survey a random group of potential buyers. Show the names to some trusted advisors or family members. Gauge the visceral responses the names generate with people. Narrow the list of names and stick with one that conjures up positive feelings with as many people as possible.

    Whether you take a scientific or casual approach to this “focus group” process, testing the names generates valuable feedback by bringing an extra set of eyes (and perspectives) to the process. You may even learn how NOT to name your company based on the feelings and opinions of the people you interview.

    Additional Tips

    Finally, here are some quick and dirty tips to use for naming:

    1. Be careful with made up words or unusual spellings. We don’t discourage this practice altogether, but the name must make sense and be easy to pronounce. If there’s any confusion, avoid it.

    2. Don’t choose a name that could limit your company’s success. Unless you have a narrow vision for your company, find a name that gives your company the ability to grow. Apple Computer Company became Apple for a reason.

    3. Use a name that has meaning. A common way to do that is to select a name that demonstrates the company’s unique value proposition. It’s possible to find synonyms or words from other languages that can be drawn upon to convey the brand’s value.

    4. Play with fonts and logos to see how the name looks printed and online. This visual experimentation helps explore how the name works in a design context, and it can conjure up new ways to develop the identity.

    5. Work with an expert. Business owners are so close to the company it’s near impossible for them to reflect objectively on their brand. Their bias affects the process with unintended consequences. It’s best to lean on the talents of a team to guide you through the process.

     

    Want to move your business forward? Let’s talk.

  • Simple Tips For Brand Messaging

    In our last blog we explored the 6 steps to establishing an effective brand. The subject of branding is far too large to capture in one blog, so we reserved our last submission primarily for the process of designing a brand identity and developing a style guide.

    This time we dig deeper into the topic of brand development – specifically brand messaging. It’s our goal to further unpack the concept of brand messaging so you can formulate your own positioning statements and tagline.

    Getting Started

    As stated in our previous blog, brand messaging starts with a deep understanding of your Why, How, What and Who.

    Why does your company do what it does?

    How does it do it?

    What specifically is it you do, and What products or services do you provide?

    Who buys your product and services?

    If you patiently research the market and objectively analyze your company, your messaging framework should naturally emerge. There are three perspectives to explore as you attempt to answer those questions:

    1. The Customer Perspective

    2. Your Company’s Perspective

    3.The Marketplace Perspective

    To understand the Customer Perspective you should spend an extended amount of time getting to know your buyers. Research as much data about your customers as you can find. If data isn’t available, survey them yourself.

    Your goal is to learn as much as you can about their pain points, their defining characteristics as a group, and how your product or service solves their problems. Once you have information about your ideal customer, develop persona guides that allow you to quickly make marketing decisions in the future.

    The Company’s Perspective is often overlooked. If you’ve started with the Why, How, What, and Who, you’ve already developed the foundation for a Company Perspective. Go even further in this step. Ask your employees, your sales team, and your operations team how they view the company and what resonates with the customers they encounter. This is vital information. Your client-facing employees frequently have the greatest amount of real world intelligence about your company’s place in the market.

    Lastly, what does the competitive landscape look like? In our last blog we described the process of surveying the terrain before embarking too far on a branding journey. In this case, what is your company’s unique value proposition compared to the other businesses with whom you will be competing? This Marketplace Perspective gives you the insight to make your company fit in OR stand out in the overall business ecosystem.

    Create Your Messaging Building Blocks

    By now you should have discovered the important features, benefits, values, and strengths that define your business. These are the foundations of your messaging upon which you build your strategy.

    With this foundation in mind, how would you describe your company using 5 or 6 words (or short phrases)? If you are working with a team, everyone should write these key terms onto sticky notes. Compare all the descriptions and see what patterns emerge. Place them into columns or groups and then distill them into focused messages. These are your building blocks.

    For example: a company might describe themselves as…

    Analytical

    Curious

    Dependable

    Frank

    Candid

    Action

    From these specific key terms you could surmise their values. They are reliable, researchers, advisors, and performers. They are problem solvers.

    Constructing a Messaging Strategy

    In November we wrote about the lessons you could learn from political campaigns. Given that politics is a giant exercise in brand strategy and messaging, campaigns and political parties are the wizards of spin. They know their buyers (voters and contributors), they speak their language, and they touch a small handful of critical pain points for each type of voter.

    Campaigns (brands) create messaging statements for advertising, printed collateral, promotional products, and talking points in interviews. Once they’ve discovered a winning formula, they repeat, repeat, and repeat the messaging until it’s time to start over.

    Let’s look at this from your perspective and apply it to the messaging you need.

    You know your buyers. You’ve explored your competitors. You have a great understanding of your vision, mission, and the company culture you hope to create. You have the building blocks, or key terms, that define your company. From this knowledge you should develop the following:

    Tagline – The commitment or challenge you make to your customers, maybe even yourself. It’s an old rule in billboard advertising that your message must be no longer than 10 words or less. The same goes for your tagline.

    For example:

    “Think Different” (Apple)

    “Problems Solved” (Divining Point)

    Positioning Statement – In a crowded or competitive marketplace, a positioning statement defines how your company is unique compared to other companies. It may look like a tagline, but consider it more of a statement about the niche or space in the market served by your company.

    For example:

    “The Document Company” (Xerox)

    “The Uncola” (7-Up)

    Tone – Tone is a conscious decision about how your company communicates with the world. If your company had a personality, this would be the biggest way it’s conveyed. Is your company confident, bold, provocative, and innovative? Or is it defined by a humble service, calm, and sincere? Does your company use humor or passion?

    For example:

    “We drink all we can. The rest we sell.” (Utica Club)

    “Eat Mor Chikin” (Chick-fil-A)

    There are other messaging materials you can create, like an Elevator Pitch, Company Pillars, and the explanation of your company’s values and history – known online as your About page.

    Branching Out

    Once you’ve undertaken the hard work of messaging, all of your copywriting, ad copy, and written collateral should naturally flow. The tools above will allow you to infuse all written content and messaging with the key words and qualities that properly represent your company and speak to your customers. Given that content is still king in today’s crowded media landscape, you will have a leg up on your competition by having quality content that exudes your core values. Every ad, commercial, social media post, white paper, or blog will continue to positively drive your brand.

     

    Want to move your business forward? Let’s talk.

  • 6 Steps To An Effective Brand

    Think of the most successful brands you know. Coca-Cola. Disney. FedEx. Shell.

    They make an impact on you. They survive cultural shifts and changes in the market. They consistently tell a story that resonates with customers. The time and work that went into developing these long-lasting brands cannot be underestimated.

    It’s well understood that customers embrace brands that connect with them on a deeper level. They also turn away from brands that appear flat, stagnant, or disorganized. In a competitive market, you can’t risk being overlooked by a customer who chooses your competitor’s brand instead of yours.

    Bottom line considerations and quick turnarounds are top of mind concerns for every client. We strongly advise you reconsider the urge to rush the branding process or (even worse) use any service that claims to give you “high quality logos” for a fraction of the cost. Even if your company engages in quick transactions of low price widgets, your company’s brand is not a commodity. So don’t cheapen it. The long-term risk of getting it wrong will always exceed the upfront investment of doing it right.

    The best process for branding involves a series of steps that fully defines your company. It is a discovery for a strategy to build brand equity. In subsequent blog posts we’ll dig deeper into the topics of messaging, positioning, and strategy. But with some exception, the process for designing a powerful brand follows these six steps.

    1. Why, How, What & Who

    In 2009 Simon Sinek challenged the business community to rethink the way they inspire their customers and companies to take action. His book Start With Why flipped the conventional approach to defining a company’s purpose. Instead of leading with the obvious exercise of what a company does, Sinek proposed that it’s more important to tell people why you do what you do.

    People don’t buy what you do or even how you do it. In a crowded marketplace where competitors quickly adopt all of your company’s unique features and benefits, your Why inspires greater loyalty from everyone that comes in contact with your brand. The process of building an effective brand begins with a discovery process that starts with Why.

    The team you enlist to help define your brand will continue to dig into questions about process (How), products and services (What), and the clients your serve (Who). Research into these critical components will give you a solid foundation to develop your positioning, messaging, brand identity, and business strategies.

    To use a straightforward analogy, your company won’t successfully attract others until it has a strong understanding of self.

    2. Survey the Terrain

    Every client is unique. Every brand is distinct. But the market in which you do business is a cohesive tapestry of competing brands, messages, and standards that cumulatively define your industry. Customers have expectations, and so do your vendors and suppliers. In this case, even your own employees have a voice in what passes as “acceptable”. [nbsp_tc]

    Whether or not your brand seeks to stand out as an incomparable innovator, it’s still important to understand the space in which it will perform. Your brand strategy team must get to know your company and how it relates to the rest of the market. They should take time to decipher where your company fits into the overall business ecosystem.

    On a more granular level, this part of the process questions the finer details. For example:

    How does our color palette and shapes affect our customers?

    If everyone is using blue, why are we using red?

    How does our mission statement inspire the employees of the company to deliver the service our customers deserve?

    If the branding process is analogous to a journey, this step is the Exploration Phase.

    3. Where Will The Brand Be On Display?

    As we dive further into the process of developing a brand, questions arise about how to consolidate the company vision across the various channels. Specifically, where will consumers witness the brand in action? As a logo on a shoe? On a can? On a piece of heavy machinery? Furthermore, how does it translate to your promotional products? Can it be easily embroidered?

    Your advertising and marketing collateral are also important considerations at this juncture. Since each industry – and even each business – operates differently across traditional and digital mediums, it is strategically important to have an understanding of these display opportunities. If your product requires packaging, will the brand perform as well on plastic wrappers as it does in online imagery?

    The design team takes into account not only static representation of the brand but also how the brand performs in motion. Whether it’s an animated trade show display or graphics in commercials, the team will consider the strategies for branding the company as they dig into the hard work of imagining your new mark and messaging.

    4. Take Time For Concepting

    In the show Mad Men the world witnessed a glamorized view of the creative process. We watched the protagonist, Don Draper, seek inspiration in the arms of women and countless bottles of booze while juggling the stresses of a dispiriting suburban existence. Was it an accurate representation of the design process? Not exactly. But it effectively conveyed the truth that “Creativity is an art form, not a science”.

    One memorable and heavily discussed quote from Draper states:

    “Just think about it, deeply, and then forget it. An idea will…jump up in your face.”

    Clients have deadlines and demands. Companies are eager to make sales. Even the operations team wants to turn the wheels of production and push forward to meet demand. Everyone is excited to use the new brand to get back to work. Unfortunately, creativity doesn’t work like that. Big ideas are not simply created by mixing together all of the elements of the creative brief.[nbsp_tc] All too often it requires time to explore… and yes, sometimes that exploration doesn’t look like work.

    This is the point when everyone involved needs to calibrate their expectations. The time and effort that goes into developing a powerful brand cannot be underestimated.

    5. Present & Iterate

    Everyone loves it when they hit a homerun on the first bat, but games are won in innings. Your design team may prefer to skip the revision process and give you a final product (what we call “The One”). Other teams are more collaborative and prefer to iterate towards a final conclusion. Whatever the model, the presentation process is a serious affair.

    Everyone is busy, and synching up the schedules of multiple decision makers is difficult. However, we urge you to make time to meet (in person or via video) to review each presentation from your branding team. They are the storytellers that narrate the tale of your brand. Without the opportunity to share their perception of your brand, you may come away feeling disconnected and unsatisfied. Additionally, you will lose the opportunity to provide real time feedback.

    But wait; shouldn’t the mark be able to stand on its own? Absolutely. And it will. Your customers experience the brand differently than you do. No one is quite as critical and no one will overthink the final product quite like the people that oversee the company on a daily basis. You as the business owner are too close to the brand to witness it objectively. It’s best to work closely with your branding team at every step so that a concordant vision can be achieved.

    6. Deliverables

    We’ve added this component purely as a reminder of the things you should expect from this process. If you’ve invested in “just a logo”, then perhaps that’s all you’ll get. Brands are bigger than the icons that represent them. Mission statements, taglines, typeface, and colors are just a few of the other deliverables in which you should invest.

    A style guide is a worthwhile endeavor (and precious deliverable) to which you should devote money and time. It is a document that defines all the standards for communicating and displaying your brand. This file is easily transferred to anyone who seeks to use, share, or transmit your brand in any possible way. It also keeps everyone within your company in alignment. Anytime a question arises about how to properly market the brand, the style guide steps in to keep everyone focused.

    Shortcuts Are Not Always Easier

    The stages described above are only a snapshot of a potentially larger process. Some companies simply need a logo and a tagline. Others require a complete overhaul of their company’s direction, messaging, and identity. The more you define your brand the greater the likelihood it will be welcomed by your customers.

    Think big. There are very few rewards for cutting corners and taking shortcuts. To use backpacking parlance, bushwhacking across switchbacks in search of a shortcut is a guaranteed way to get scratched up, step on snakes, and fall backwards into the canyon. Don’t do it.

     

    Want to move your business forward? Let’s talk.

  • Branding Is More Than Just Pictures And Words

    If you own a business or have built a company from the ground up you’ve been told you need a logo and messaging. After that came a color palette, typeface, a slogan, a style guide, and more, and more, and more. It’s dizzying.

    You’ve been told that your brand should make an indelible mark in the minds of your customers and speak to them on an intimate level. Your brand is the personality, identity, and voice of your company. It conveys the values and perceived benefits of your products and services. When done correctly your brand will build a bond with a customer that produces long-term loyalty.

    Sounds really exciting, right? Maybe not. Unless you have a background in psychology and human behavior, which we do, this probably sounds like psychobabble.

    Most business owners are so intensely focused on operations, delivery, and customer service they have no time to dig into the “touchy feely” world of branding. They know they want a logo. They may even have an idea about company values. But for many business owners, brand identity and strategy seems like a difficult task without a clear, immediate ROI.

    Frankly, that’s true.

    Your Brand Is Everywhere

    An investment in branding doesn’t translate to revenue the way that, perhaps, two additional delivery trucks do. It doesn’t bring in new sales opportunities like an outside sales team or automated lead generation. It doesn’t process orders, it doesn’t make widgets, and it doesn’t answer customer service calls.

    Instead, branding is the first impression your business makes when a customer discovers your products or services. It’s also the second impression, the third impression, and the fourth, and so on in perpetuity. Every time your customer engages your product your brand makes an impact. Every phone call, every visit to your website, and every packaged good conveys your company’s value to the client.

    Branding builds the trust your client feels when they see your product on the shelf versus your competitors’.

    Branding is the difference between printed brochures that actually engage the customer versus ones that gets tossed in the trash.

    Instead of seeing a mysterious white van outside of a customer’s house, they see a professional service vehicle with your brand on it and suddenly feel at ease.

    The customer’s decision-making process begins with your brand. For companies that don’t invest wisely, it’s also your brand that pushes customers away.

    Branding Is Insurance

    In essence, branding is a tactical method to reach and retain customers. Think of it as a sophisticated net that keeps the customer engaged. Your company’s brand identity, messaging, and underlying strategy have as much of an effect on keeping customers as it does on why, when, and how they buy.

    Your brand also affects employees and company stakeholders on a deep emotional level. Your company’s mission and values should permeate throughout the organization as much as it radiates away from it. As executors of the company’s service, your brand must motivate and resonate with your employees. It is the glue that binds them together as well as to your company and to the customer. History is full of legendary companies whose brands lost their soul and in turn lost their employees. Equally, there are companies who changed the world by staying true to their brand.

    Our advice is to think beyond the logo and the slogan. Don’t get hung up on the cost. The cost of developing your brand is relative to the magnitude of the losses from getting it wrong. The risk of losing your customers to a swift competitor should be reason alone to invest wisely. If your brand could sink the ship why would you try to cut corners? It’s also your brand that keeps it afloat.

     

    Want to move your business forward?[nbsp_tc]Let’s talk.